Professionalism... Or The Lack Of It In Vending

May 15, 2017

It all began as a beautiful spring morning on the west coast of Florida. The temperature was in the low seventies and a gentle breeze was coming in off of the Gulf of Mexico. I had my windows rolled down to enjoy the fresh air knowing full well in a couple of months the hot humid summer in Florida would not be conducive to having my windows down due to the high temperatures and humidity.

I was stopped at a red light when I began to hear something very loud getting closer to my car. I looked to my left and what I saw actually began to make me angry. A cargo van pulled up beside me that looked like it had been in a war zone and it had what sounded like heavy metal music playing very, very loud with the bass turned up as high as it could go. Let me say that I am not against rock and roll music. My wife will attest to this, although she also says I'm an old time rock and roll lover, but back to the van. 

To say that the van was dirty and beat up would be an understatement. As I was contemplating it, I saw the small magnetic sign on the side. It had the name of a vending company followed by the statement "Professional Vending Services". This made me look more closely. Inside the van were two dirty, grimy looking characters. One had a baseball cap on that was backwards and the second man had a cigarette dangling from his lip.

At that point this thought came to me: "How could the vending company have such a motley looking crew and company van looking the way it did?" Is it any wonder that many people don’t have a high opinion of some vending companies. I wondered what the customers of this so called professional vending company think when they show up to restock the machines looking the way they do. The idea that they would be handling food products could not inspire confidence by the employees of the location.

I smiled at the people in the van, now seeing me watch them, and asked the man with the cigarette if vending was a good business to be in. He said no, because it is hard work and the only person making any money was the owner of the company. He also said they were only paid minimum wage.

Unprofessionalism lost them business

Vending companies who fit into this category often have so many fingerprints on the front of their glassfront snack and cold beverage machines that you sometimes have trouble identifying what the products are inside. These are the same people that have ten select cold beverage machines but only eight selections are in working condition. I think we can all agree they are not professionals. To be blunt, they are losers and they give the vending industry a black eye.

As the two characters in the rusted-out van drove off and pulled in front of me, I decided to follow. It was only a few short blocks until they made a right turn into the parking lot of a large manufacturing plant. The first thought that occurred to me was that surely this could not be one of their locations. After watching their cargo van go behind the building I proceeded to turn into the employee parking lot. It only took a few moments for me to count a total of 227 cars.

I then drove up to the front office of the plant and went inside the front door to the lobby and told the receptionist I wanted to send their human resource manager a literature package about our vending company. She became very animated and said they were looking for a new vending company because virtually everyone was not happy with their current vendor. She gave me the name of the H.R. manager and I drove to my office.

We sent out our literature package the same day and in a couple of days the H.R. manager of the manufacturing plant called and asked if I would come out and talk to her about our vending company. Of course I was very pleased to make the appointment. The next day I met with her and the plant manager in their conference room. I asked to see their current vending machines and they took me to the employee break room. I was amazed, to say the least, when we walked in and I was made aware of the fact that the location had recently remodeled the break room. They had asked the current vendor to update their vending machines to go along with the new break room decor. The vendor told them that they usually did not install new machines, but they could check into updating the equipment. The H.R. and plant manager told me it has been almost two months and they had not heard a word about getting new machines from their current vendor.

What I saw in the break room was a total of five machines. Two of the machines were from the two major bottlers in the area. One was a glass front machine that by my count had 21 sold out selections and the other eight-select drink machine had an out of service sign taped to the front. A four wide snack machine that was at least fifteen years old, a cold food machine with over half the selections filled with Ramen noodles, Gatorade, Yoo Hoo and microwaveable. The fifth machine was a coffee machine that looked as though it came over on the Titanic.

We were able to sign 48 month vending service agreement with the location on the spot by informing them we would install brand new state of the art electronic merchandisers with credit/debit card acceptors. In addition we were told they also had another smaller location about thirty minutes from the main plant that we also signed up to do their vending a week later.

These two prime vending locations had a combined total of 461 employees of which approximately 425 were good paying blue collar positions. The larger of the two plants was averaging $5,100 in monthly sales and the other plant averaging $3,800 in monthly sales.

What professional service gets you

We landed two 48 month vending service agreements that generated approximately $427,200 in sales for the life of the agreement simply because of the other vendor. That company must have thought it was ok to operate a vending business with old, used equipment that was constantly breaking down as well as vehicles and employees who definitely were less than professional. The entire scenario took place because I happened to be in the right place at the right time to make the observation and offer an alternative. That was all. I happened to bump into the other vending company owner a few months later and he could not understand why I was willing to purchase nine brand new state-of-the-art electronic merchandisers for the location. When I told him the total cost of the machines was under $60,000 he just shook his head. I could swear I heard him mumble to himself that he should have invested in the new machines and kept his vehicles and employees in better condition. Then he might not have lost his largest location. 

Being a professional in vending doesn’t cost that much more, and, in the long run, your return on invest will far exceed the price paid for not being a professional vending service provider for everyone with which you do business.  In fact, the person an interesting side note is that the person I sold my business to still has both of those locations six years later.